I consume a lot of media, indeed it could be said that I am expose to too much. I spend hours every day reading news articles online, watching videos on current affairs, reading newspapers etc. It is this very passion for news and current affairs that fuels my desire to write. As I went to my local newsagents to pick up my daily copy of the paper I spotted a new broadsheet along the bottom row entitled The New European. It looked incredibly professionally done, unlike the short lived New Day, and caught my eye with it’s tagline: “the new pop-up paper for the 48%”. Of course anyone who is remotely politically savvy could see that this was a reference to the recent EU referendum debate, and so this was clearly an attempt to bring together the pro-EU 48% behind a common newspaper. On numerous occasions I have explained why I voted to leave the EU however unlike the many millions of people who voted in the same way as myself, I do not have a philosophical opposition to cosmopolitanism, which seemed to be the ideological starting point of this paper. Indeed I do see myself as quite cosmopolitan and so I picked up the paper to see what was what.
Before I begin picking apart the content of the paper, may I applaud the principle behind such a publication. The national papers in Britain are such that they focus on issues that exclusively affect people in Britain and stories that are given column inches because they happened in Britain. The logic of the conventional wisdom makes sense- our audience is in Britain so we should report the news in Britain- but we no longer live in this world. Don’t get me wrong if there was a massive story that took place in Italy, then that would be on the front page and there may well be special coverage inside, but by and large most of the stories in British papers are to do with things in Britain.
The paper that I buy most regularly, The i, is a prime example. On the Monday 11th July edition of the paper, I counted around 7 pages worth of foreign news out of the total number of 56. Of those 7 pages, four articles of varying length (about a page and a half’s worth of text) were about Europe. We live in a world that is highly interconnected and issues in many countries around the world are interesting to people in Britain, irrespective of their ideological view. I, therefore, commend The New European for, if nothing else, highlighting the glaring Anglocentrism of our news media.
On that note let’s begin our autopsy with the positive parts of the paper. During the EU referendum campaign, there was much spoken about the idea of European culture, and how Britain has added to this culture over a number of centuries. Without opening the debate about whether neoliberalism is bringing about cultural homogenisation, I want to credit the paper for its extensive section on European culture. This section, which is humorously named ‘Eurofile’ mixes a combination of cultural writing with travel pieces and country fact-files. Again an interesting design that should be commended. The paper also stresses the idea of freedom of movement by referring to the ease at which people can travel to Paris for the cafe’s or Prague for the beer and football. This is an interesting way of approaching such a topic and it does make you feel enthused about the prospect of travelling to Europe.
The rest of the paper is a bit of a mixed bag. The first section of the paper is called ‘Agenda’ and this essentially allows the editorial team to explain the ideological proclivities of the paper. I am fine with this as a concept, I mean my entire site is one massive ‘Agenda’ section, but the tone is something that annoyed me. Whenever I make arguments, I always genuinely try to understand the other side and give the benefit of the doubt to my opponent. The logic behind this is that if you can refute an argument using their own premises, there is a greater chance that your opponent will come with you. If you ignore everything they say, even if you are right to do so, it is always best to engage with these ideas.
The ‘Agenda’ section does not do this. One of the articles was essentially mocking the areas that supported leaving the EU in a tone that bordered on schadenfreude. The front page of the paper also annoyed me for the same reason. On the front page was a cartoon that pictured two people sitting on a sofa saying “I wonder if dogs think”, and the dog on the right is thinking the following: “these idiots…voting to leave the EU creating a future of uncertainty and instability that will have a knock on effect for generations to come…leading to isolation and beleaguerment of this once great nation”. I understand that this was an attempt at a joke but it came across as contemptuous. I found this particularly ironic because on the page prior the columnist Jonathan Freedland had essentially argued that the main reason behind people voting for Brexit was a rejection of liberal elitism. This was especially sad as the other half of this section was a good look at European news stories, namely the ethical concerns over the Pamplona bull run, how photographers are documenting changing perceptions of Europe, and the potential return of the lynx to Britain.
The other section of the paper is called ‘Expertise’, which was based off the infamous Michael Gove quote “people in this country have had enough of experts”.This section contains a number of decent ideas for articles, including views from journalists across Europe. For many years we have been incredibly insular when it came to journalism and often haven’t considered how Britain is perceived across the world. Self-reflection and examination is quite difficult because the person you are analysing has an emotional and prideful bias in favour of exonerating past behaviour. On an individual level this can manifest as arrogance, but on a national level this can result in nationalism and British exceptionalism. This is why criticism from an outside perspective is often valuable.
To be honest the rest of the section is hard to critique properly as it is the first edition and much of it is a post-mortem of the referendum, so it is hard to judge how this section of the paper will develop in the future. I would say that I expected the despondent tone from a few articles, but there was a distinct lack of ‘silver linings’. There is a reason for this: they have accidentally fallen for their own logical fallacy.
People have been pro-EU have self-described as ‘pro-Europe’ and they have invested a large part of their identity into being pan-European citizens that must defend against the rise of forces that want to hark back to a world that never existed. Granted there are a lot of Brexiteers that do want to return to the land time forgot, but leaving the EU doesn’t mean leaving Europe, because Europe is a geographical term. Also, practically speaking I don’t believe that leaving the European Union stops people in Britain liking European culture. I find Japanese culture fascinating, that doesn’t mean that I want to have a diplomatic relationship underpinned by neoliberal economics.
Further, the fight shouldn’t be trying to bring Britain back into the EU, but working to maintain agreements of the things that are good about the EU. I’ve never been one to say that everything about the EU is bad because that would be inane. For example, human rights legislation passed in the European Parliament should be passed at Westminster. Pan-European co-operation in regards to healthcare should be maintained because it is a system of reciprocal compensation, and doesn’t necessarily require administration from Brussels. The EU was a forum for co-operation, but that doesn’t mean that co-operation has to cease because Britain have left. Diplomacy and peace must continue, and that is the argument people who voted Remain should be making.
In conclusion, it is hard to judge The New European as it was the first edition. There were lots of very good ideas for articles, and I’m all for innovative reporting that provides perspectives not currently heard in the media. The editorial team needs to be wary of a patronising tone because that will only harden anti-EU arguments of internationalists like myself who oppose the EU but still take an interest in European affairs. In my view, The New European should play down the opinion pieces, as many of the opinions are rooted in the same liberal internationalist outlook, but should keep features looking at the UK from a European perspective and the small pieces looking at news stories across the continent.
If I was designing the paper, I would have tried to make it more like a printed version of Euronews. Obviously by marketing itself as the newspaper of Remain this would establish itself in a strange political time, but too much stuff on licking wounds gets a bit depressing after a while. Hopefully this changes as the news cycle does, but if in three months they are still rehashing the arguments of the referendum campaign, then it will be a worthless publication.